Eleven students from Heights and Hermosa middle schools and Piedra Vista High School will travel with their projects to the University of Maryland in College Park in June to present at the National History Day competition.
National History Day requires students to choose an historical topic related to a yearly theme.
The students conduct extensive research, analyzing and interpreting the information to determine the topic's historical significance.
Susan Boyles, an Hermosa Middle School teacher of gifted students, has incorporated the program into her seventh and eighth grade English classes for the last 10 years. Boyles has five students traveling with three projects this year.
Boyles said she has learned her students produce the best work when she is less hands-on about their projects.
"The students are capable of amazing things and I still am amazed by the quality of work they can produce if I get out of the way and let them do it," she said. "I really see my role as not trying to open up their heads and pour in the facts. My goal is to make them excited about learning and providing them with what they need to succeed."
The students in Boyles' classes are required to gather a minimum of 25 sources for their projects. Boyles said the students find themselves initially intimidated by the amount of work but eager to tackle the project due to the freedom she gives them.
"One of the things they learn is time management from working on a long-term goal," Boyles said. "It sets them up to reach long-term goals like a college education or working your way up through a job."
Two students at Piedra Vista High School, Kristina Schwab and Sabrina Tornow, won first place in their separate categories at the state completion held on April 26 in Albuquerque.
This is the fourth year Tornow has competed in the History Day program and the third year she is competing at the national competition.
Last school year, she took sixth place in the individual exhibit category at nationals with her project on the history of cadavers.
With this year's theme on turning points in history and her interest in the medical field, Tornow focused on the history of prosthetic limbs using World War II as her focal point.
"I thought about using the Vietnam War because (prosthetic limbs) became more electronic but during World War II was when they started mass producing them," Tornow said.
Tornow has been working with the Piedra Vista Librarian Margie Sartin on the project during her free time since the fall semester.
"They don't do it in a class but totally on their own," Sartin said. "It is an amazing program in requiring college-level research and the students who do it, they really know how to do it."
Tornow said she learned the money the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs funneled into research during World War II sparked advancements in developing higher quality prosthetic limbs.
"It affects a lot of people, the change since World War II is some people with diabetes have to have their limbs amputated and even though they are not war veterans, they have benefited from this big change as they received more advanced limbs and were able to live more normal lives," Tornow said.
Joshua Kellogg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 505-564-4627. Follow him on Twitter @jkelloggdt.